Saturday, January 15, 2011

New "Old" Column by Dave LeSueur

I am submitting this column to The Denver Post. It was already published in Momentum Magazine, so many of you have already seen it.

The Funnypage: My Trip to Italy
by David LeSueur

I know that adversity causes some people to become atheists—they can’t answer the old “Why does God allow suffering” question. Having MS hasn’t made me stop believing in God, but it has strained our relationship.

The Old Testament Job might argue that I have no right to complain. After all, the Lord took away all of Job’s possessions and killed his offspring. But I would counter that last year my cable TV and wireless Internet both went out for a whole week, so I too know a little about pain and suffering.

A few years ago, I decided to ask God to do something that showed He still cared about me. My wife, Mary, and I have always wanted to visit Italy, so when my MS symptoms began to worsen, we decided it would be a good idea to go before it was too late. I could still walk with the aid of a cane or crutches, but we knew touring Italy would require more walking than I was capable of. I figured God owed me, so I prayed for a small miracle—the strength to walk around Italy on my own. As a precaution we bought a cheap wheelchair to take on the trip, but I really didn’t want Mary to have to push me around Italy in it. I was testing God, so I didn’t even make any promises like “If you will answer my prayer I promise that I will go to church every week for the rest of my life and I will eat Brussels sprouts at least once a month.”

When we finally arrived in Rome, it appeared that God was failing His test. The flight was difficult and I was exhausted. I could not walk at all and it looked like Mary would have to push me everywhere. We had signed up for a bus tour and the first day we went to Vatican City. The bus dropped us off in front of the Vatican and we got our first taste of what it was going to be like driving a wheelchair in Italy. There was no place to get me from the street to the sidewalk. Mary tipped me backward, preparing to ease me up to the curb. Joanne and Ken from San Diego, who had happened to sit next to us on the bus, walked up. “Can I help you lift?” asked Ken. “Thank you!” Mary replied and we were soon up over the curb. We had lunch with Ken and Joanne and were joined by Ron and Katie from Oregon. In the afternoon the six of us walked around and the two men took turns lifting me over curbs.

That evening, our Gang of Six became eight when we were joined at dinner by Pat and Judy from New York. For the rest of the trip, not only did the men lift me over curbs, they took turns pushing me in the wheelchair.

The tour director was a wonderful Italian lady who was not afraid to ask anyone for help to accommodate my needs. In Florence we needed to walk up a long and steep hill and the men weren’t looking forward to it, so she flagged down a police car. She convinced them to give me a ride to the top of the hill. How many tourists can say they rode in an Italian police car (at least where it did not involve drugs or alcohol)?

When we stopped to see some ancient ruins and were trying to figure out how to get me over some rocks, I apologized for making things difficult for her. “If there is anything you want to do or see, let me know,” she said, “and I will make sure it happens.”

“Well,” I said, “I would like an audience with the Pope and a date with Cindy Crawford—not necessarily in that order!” I had to assure her I was joking or I am convinced she would have found a way to have me meet the Pope. And she wouldn’t have let him leave until he had cured me.

By the end of the week I had to admit that God had passed my test. No, I wasn’t able to walk much, but He had placed me on a bus with an understanding tour director and three wonderful couples who became my legs.

I hadn’t promised God anything in return, but the least I can do is tell the story. And I will try to go to church every week. But that is all because I really hate Brussels sprouts.

David LeSueur lives with his wife in Littleton, Colo. His most recent piece for Momentum was “A Focused Mind,” about his ongoing search for the nearest bathroom.

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